By Dan Calabrese
This seems like a very dumb conversation to be having, and yet we’re having it, in part because the president himself and Rudy Giuliani seem to want to talk about it.
Can the president really pardon himself? If the president’s power to pardon is absolute, and there’s nothing in the Constitution that says he can’t use it on himself, then he probably can. Maybe that’s why Trump and Giuliani have been taunting Robert Mueller and his media cheerleaders with the prospect of the self-pardon. Maybe they want Mueller to think twice about pursuing an indictment – especially one built on grounds as flimsy as this whole investigation appears to be – only to see Trump turn around and render the whole thing null and void.
I believe as I have all along that the “Trump/Russia collusion” investigation is a nonsense exercise based on nothing. It’s a wild goose chase in search of a pretext to go after Donald Trump, rather than a legitimate pursuit of something based on real probable cause. The more we learn about it, the flimsier it appears, and it’s absurd that it’s even still a news story, let alone an ongoing investigation. It’s an example of how moronic this country can be sometimes that we’re still even talking about this.
And yet we are. And because we are, we have to point out that the focus on Trump pardoning himself is a typical media obsession over the wrong thing.
Trump cannot be removed from office by an indictment, or even theoretically by conviction. The Founders were very intentional about setting up only one way to remove the president from office, and it is not by turning loose an obsessed prosecutor to drum up criminal charges against him. That would make it possible to criminalize everything from policy differences to campaign tactics. In this case, we’re talking about conversations by low-level campaign operatives, and whether they accurately remember who they talked to and what they believed at the time about who these people were.
If that is a premise for removing a president from office via conviction of a crime, then fold up the country. We can no longer govern ourselves.
But it is not. The Constitution doesn’t even provide for such a thing.
Trump could only be removed via impeachment, which requires a majority vote of the House to bring charges and a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove from office. And the charges don’t have to be based on criminal law. The House can draw up articles of impeachment based on whatever criteria its members choose, but it has to be serious enough to get a majority of the members and persuade two-thirds of senators to agree it’s worth removing the president from office over.
Whether George Papadapoulos thought the guy he was talking to at the bar was Vladimir Putin’s cousin is not going to meet that standard.
But let’s say, against all likelihood, Robert Mueller finds credible evidence of serious criminal wrongdoing on the part of Donald Trump. If that happens, it is highly unlikely Mueller will attempt to indict the president, since there’s a legitimate question about whether he even can. What he will do instead is refer it to the House for consideration of articles of impeachment. If Trump is impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate, then Mueller could bring charges against ex-President Trump. I suppose President Trump could try to pardon himself proactively while still in office, but I doubt he actually has the power to pardon himself or anyone else for a crime that hasn’t even been charged.
Any way you look at it, impeachment is the only constitutional threat to Trump’s presidency, and he has no power to do anything about it if Congress decides to take that action. So all the talk about Trump pardoning himself is mildly provocative, but totally beside the point. Whether he can or not, it wouldn’t save him if it came to that.
And by the way, it won’t, because there was no collusion and the Mueller investigation at the behest of Rod Rosenstein is a far greater abuse of power than anything Donald Trump will ever dream of doing.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!